We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

The Expedition Against the Bute Murderers

The British Columbian, August 6, 1864

The first duty of a civilized Government is the punishment of crime and rendering secure the life and property of the subject. Certainly no one can charge the Governor of this Colony with apathy in the discharge of this duty. On the contrary, all must admire the promptitude and firmness displayed by His Excellency in employing such scanty means as lay within his reach for securing the perpetrators of the murder near Bute Inlet. Nor would failure in any measure detract from the credit due His Excellency, who has not only brought into immediate requisition all the advice and all the material appliances which the case would appear to justify, but has gone through the campaign himself, exposing his own person to all the discomfort and danger consequent thereon. And all this, too, while yet he had been but a few weeks in the country.

But admiration of the part acted by His Excellency, under the most trying circumstances, cannot render one altogether oblivious to the painful fact that this expedition is all the while running up a fearful bill of costs. The first expedition to Bute Inlet was out nineteen days, and numbered 28 men. The second, to Bentinck Arm, numbering 40 men, embarked on the 14th June and is still in the Chilicooten country. The third, under Mr. Cox, numbering 50 men, left Alexandria about three weeks later. So that, including those who subsequently joined the party and those engaged in the commissariat department we have now in the field an army of about 120 men with half as many animals. And when we state that by competent judges the expense is computed at one thousand dollars per diem, our readers may be able to form some conception of the magnitude of the undertaking, in a financial point of view. According to this calculation, which we fear is no exaggeration, the expense of pursuing sixteen or eighteen native murderers must already have reached a figure considerably over fifty thousand dollars! And the most discouraging and alarming feature of the case is the fact that the object has not yet been gained, and we cannot even venture a prediction as to the probable termination of this expensive expedition.

Under these distressing circumstances it is not strange that the mind should be disposed to revert back to the origin of this unfortunate piece of business. When we find on the part of all the native tribes with whom our Government comes in contact a friendly and loyal disposition the question naturally suggests itself: — How came these sixteen members of the Chilicooten tribe to be outlaws and fugitives from justice? By no act on the part either of the Government or the people of British Columbia has this state of things been brought about. The whole evil, not only in this instance, but in others of less magnitude, and to which space will not permit further allusion just now, would appear to be the result of the smuggling and coast route speculations which our Island neighbors have indulged in along the seaboard of this Colony during the past five or six years. The intercourse of these people with our coast Indians has been of the most unhappy character, and has sown the seeds of future trouble in dealing with the native tribes. Those men engaged in illicit trade with the Indians are generally of the very worst character, and but ill calculated to impress the Indian mind favorably with respect to the philanthropic character of our Government or the advantages likely to accrue to their people from the influx of the whites. In fact, if they are to take that class to which we have alluded as a fair sample of the whites — and they have had little else upon which to form an estimate – we need not be at all surprised at their disposition to close the avenues of what they have ever been accustomed to consider their own country against the ingress of “the pale-faced intruder” – may we not say, the corrupter and despoiler of their race.

The public generally are aware that the immediate cause of the present difficulty was the absurd scheme in which Mr. Waddington was engaged, and the treatment and impressions the Indians who came in contact with that gentleman and those in his employment received. Mr. Waddington and his friends have attempted to mislead the public upon this point, and have sought to make the impression that the men employed upon the Bute Inlet trail treated the Indians well, and were in good favor with them. But, unfortunately for their object, there is a long catalogue of stern facts arrayed against them. The simple fact of the murder – however unjustifiable the act – is against them. Making due allowance for the selfishness and treachery of the Indians, is it within the bounds of probability that these people would have murdered men by whom they were well treated and with whom they were on friendly terms – whose presence there, in fact, was a thing to be desired? And, then, the particular manner in which some of the unfortunate victims were mutilated after death points to the secret cause of trouble. These, however, are at best mere circumstantial evidence. But the most positive evidence was elicited by the magistrate upon the spot, tending to show that the dealings and intercourse of these road-makers with the Indians were of a character calculated to provoke the most terrible retribution. That retribution came, and we, as a Colony, are now likely to be mulcted in a pretty bill of costs.

Source: "The Expedition Against the Bute Murderers," The British Columbian, August 6, 1864.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History